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A tribute to Mark Carroll – A well known member of the Newcastle United away day family

3 months ago

Sack Jack! Sack Jack! The chant that made me realise what football (and Geordie humour) was all about.

As a kid growing up on the Grange estate in Gosforth, I went to games with my best mate Mark Carroll (pre-teenage).

We had seen Supermac, Hibbitt, Gowling etc and we had no idea at that time just how much Newcastle United would affect us.

Much later, after watching many games together, at a pre-season friendly Jack Charlton famously quit thanks to fan discontent at the quality and style of football being served up, and the humorous – some might say, of rhyming Jack with sack. A damascene moment, or was it just our age?

Anyway, the McFaul era began and we sensed a new dawn with half decent football but, to little success.

Later on the Board splashed the cash (after selling Gazza in summer 1988), and even the media bought in to mega purchases from Wimbledon (remember them). There was a sense of revolution in the air though, with chants of “sack the board”…

At this point I moved to Nottingham to go to Uni so away games became my lifeblood and link to home. Meeting up with Mark Carroll on several occasions and witnessing Gazza being assaulted by Vinny Jones at Plough Lane.

At one London game we were surrounded by Birmingham Zulus in a central London tube station at one point and on another, sat in Shakespeare’s at Victoria waiting for the Chelsea mob to claim their boozer. All fun and games in the Thatcherite eighties. Strange times. And football away games through the Jim Smith era were no better.

For younger readers, this was the age where you could just turn up and pay to get in (recently lots of debate about away tickets and who should get them!).

Ardiles took charge and I remember being at Swindon where the home end was cheaper than the away end, even though it was the exact same terracing separated by a fence. “Let’s go in the home end” Thatcherite politics, right?

So, King Kev takes over and there we are desperate and away at Port Vale, E is the new drug on the scene and that’s what King Kev brings. Ecstasy.

I won’t bore you with what comes next with away games but we all know what has followed. Moving on some 30 years later I now have an 11 year old son who has only known the Ashley era. I have been taking him to games home and away in the sad depressing Ashley times and he is black and white literally.

Before the takeover as we languished, he kept quiet about his allegiance, nothing to brag about but proud of his roots. His PE teacher calling him out as Newcastle! Living in London surrounded by Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U fans, you can understand how he felt. Now he wears his black and white shirt at every opportunity, proud to be black and white in front of his PE teacher and mates. And now going to games when we can and seeing a team that fights! Love it, I tell you I love it!

Mark Carroll died from covid related illness a year ago and he was well known in the away day family, was a lifelong friend, NUFC fanatic, top socialist and inspiration to my son. We remember him every day.


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